The Casual Runner

2014 runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Part 2

Event: 2014 runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Event Date: November 8-9, 2014

Event Location: Walt Disney World, Florida

Picking up where we left off from Part 1

Along the course

Well into the 8th mile of the race, it was still pouring down rain, I was soaked, the course had standing water on it, and I was loving every minute of it. I felt strong, not at all tired, and if anything, more invigorated with every passing step. The course turns left onto a sweeping one ramp to make its way towards Hollywood Studios. The footing here was uneven and at times difficult, and the entire stretch is very dark, but I pushed onto…until…

OH MY GOD. The worst pain I have ever felt while running. I had no idea what it was, I just put my left foot down, and BAM! A stabbing pain in the top of my foot instantly overcame me.  It was so unbearable I had to stop.  I took some deep breaths, tried re-tying my shoe laces, and resumed running. A few steps later…BAM! The pain returned. I repeated this routine several times, but I knew, I just knew it, I was done for.  There was no way I could finish running this race. But, at the same time, I knew that there was no way I would NOT finish this race. The pain subsided when I walked. So I decided to switch to an interval program. Accept. Adjust. Advance.

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Fortunately the rains held off for much of the pre-race festivities, but then it would be a very wet race.

The problem was that I could not run more than 100 yards before the pain became so unbearable that I had to stop and walk. With a little more than 5 miles to go, this was going to be a long, long night. But I had no quit in me. My mind and my spirit wanted to run, but my foot would not allow me to do so.

We turned right into Hollywood Studios and entered the backstage area near the Tower of Terror. I felt the excitement and tried running, but again the pain returned, this time nearly crippling me to the ground. I grabbed ahold of a nearby fence and righted myself, and pushed on.  We passed through the Rock N Roller Coaster Courtyard, and out onto Sunset Boulevard, where I managed a light jog. By the time I reached the turn onto Hollywood Boulevard, I was again forced to stop.  Race Icon.  I stared at the beautiful Sorcerer’s Hat, lit up in all of its glory, wishing I could run towards it, but knowing that I just could not.

We passed into the backstage area and the disco ball tunnel…which, while awesome, only served to taunt me as I could not bring myself to run while in it, so I walked.  I lightly jogged intervals through the rest of the backstage area, and forced myself to hang in as long as I could, knowing what was in store for us when we returned onstage…

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Is there a better stretch of race course anywhere? The Osborne lights make for one magical race moment.

Race Icon. Perhaps the signature part of this course is running through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Wow. Just Wow. This gave me an excuse to relieve the pain by again slowing to walk, and actually allowed me to forget about my foot pain for a few moments. Magical Moment.  Osborne is the very definition of spectacular. All of the pain I endured was worth it for this moment.  I appreciated the opportunity to take it all in.

We exited Osborne and I proceeded to try and jog past Star Tours. I was later informed that there were Star Wars characters here, but, frankly, I was in so much pain I did not notice. I stopped at the medical station and was given a single Tylenol and a giant red “X” on my left hand. I am not sure if this really did anything, as the pain would stay with me the rest of the race.

We did an arc around Echo Lake, and crossed over Hollywood Boulevard. As we did, I stopped, and did what I’ve taught my nephews to do: I blew a kiss to the park Icon and said “See ya real soon!” I knew that this may be the last time that I see the Sorcerer’s Hat, as it is slated for removal.

We exited the park and made our way to the path along the canal to the Epcot Area resorts. I LOVE this part of the course, but my foot pain had grown so intense I could not really enjoy it.  I think it was made worse by the frustration that I wanted to run, but could not.  They had music and light effects under a bridge for our entertainment, but, because of the rain, we did not see the same fun crowds we saw at the 2013 event.

I ran over the bridge in front of the Swan & Dolphin hotels, but by the time I reached the bottom, I had to stop again.  Accept. Adjust. Advance. This deep into the race, it was all that I could do.

As we passed through the Epcot area resorts, I appreciated just how beautiful they are in the rain.  As we entered the backstage area of Epcot, I moved over allow a wheelchair racer to pass by. He looked cold, wet, and miserable, but he was enduring. And so would I. When I saw the 12 mile marker, it frustrated me greatly that I could not run the last mile, but I pushed on.

We entered Epcot between the Imagination (have I mentioned how much I love Figment??) and the Land Pavilions. We made our way past the Fountain of Nations, Innoventions, and Spaceship Earth.  Race Icon.  Spaceship Earth is always spectacular at night, all aglow, and tonight was no exception.

The course exits into a backstage area, where I made sure to walk.  One way or another, I was going to finish this race running, even if that meant saving every bit of reserve I had.  Once in the Epcot parking lot, we were greeted by an amazing laser light show, which was made all the better by the rain and the fog.  I pushed on, fighting through the pain as I entered the finishers’ chute. Sadly, Mickey and his friends could not be there to high-four us as we finished because of the rain, but we understood, and pushed through to the finish. By the time I crossed the timing mat, the pain in my left foot had grown so intense I could not take it anymore. I nearly fell to the ground but managed to stop myself from doing so by grabbing onto a rail.

I didn’t care about the pain, I really didn’t. My disappointment was in having lost my perfect race. But, no matter what, I finished. I abided by my mantra: Accept. Adjust. Advance. And I finished. I take some comfort in knowing that I will have a shot at my redemption…next year.

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runDisney came through with yet another amazing SMO, and this one spins!

The SMOpinion

runDisney medals are the finest in the running world, and they are known to step up their game in anniversary years. This year was no exception. The medal is a gorgeous work of art. It is also a spinner that features the historical medal designs from past races.  I love this medal and it immediately shot to the top of my favorite SMOs.

Many Casual Runners did report to us that their medals broke soon after receiving them.  We are not sure if this is due to them being dropped, but we did hear that some of the medals arrived damaged. Regardless, it is a gorgeous SMO and I am confident that runDisney will do right by these Casual Runners.

The post-race experience

OK, please bear with me for a moment. I gave runDisney some very well-deserved praise in Part 1 of this review, and particularly lauded the volunteers who were nothing short of remarkable. The on-course experience, especially under the conditions, was phenomenal and I really don’t think they could have done any better. That being said, we here at Casual Runner owe our readers our honest opinions and assessments. And, just as runDisney could not have performed any better before and during the race, the post-race experience represented a starkly contrasted experience.

After I finished, I received my SMO and, for the first time ever at a race, immediately wrapped myself in a mylar sheet.  The temperature was in the high 50s and the rain was coming down steadily.  I proceeded past the picture stations without stopping because the pain in my foot was too great.

The line to retrieve our items from bag check for letters R-S was long.  (How long was it? Well…) So long that I stood, freezing cold, in the pouring rain for 25 minutes (yes, I checked it because I had sent a text right as I got in line).  This was not only excessive, but led to a miserable experience for all of the runners involved. runDisney cannot do anything about the weather, but I honestly have no idea why this line would take so long.  Other letters had long lines as well, but none seemed quite so long as R-S.

The design of the exit for the finishers’ chute really needs some work. After bag check, there is a choke point where volunteers handed out the post-race wine and beer.  I don’t think a beer ever tasted as good to me as it did on that night, but this created a huge traffic jam, made worse by the fact that they were checking IDs and people were there, in the rain, trying to dig through their checked gear bags to retrieve their IDs so they could get their drinks and exit.

Unlike last year, the changing area was difficult to find and I had to ask for directions. It was up a small hill, in a grassy area.  These tents were way too small for the number of runners desperate to get out of their cold, wet clothes. I would estimate way too small by at least half.  I found a small piece of grass, laid down my mylar sheet (which was now ruined because of it), and did my best to change.  When I exited the tent, the lines for both the men’s and women’s tents had grown quite large.  When I found Jenny, I advised her to just wait and change inside of Epcot because the lines were so long.

When we made our way to Epcot, we met long lines at the bag check.  Disney security did their best to clear us, but there were far too few security officers given the large crowd and the large number of bags (you have to figure nearly every runner had a bag, as did most of the spectators. Again, we stood patiently in the cold rain – at least I had dry clothes and a poncho, Jenny was cold and wet, still in her race clothes.

Once inside Epcot we made our way to the Land Pavilion so Jenny could change in the (warm) bathrooms. Along the way we saw a lot of cold, miserable runners sitting on the ground. I am not sure why these folks didn’t just go back to their resorts, they did not seem like they were enjoying themselves. But Jenny and I were determined to enjoy the after party.

The attraction lines were nonexistent. We walked onto Soarin’, so yes, I did get to partake in my traditional post-runDisney race activity. We then made our way to Spaceship Earth, which was especially enjoyable on this evening. By then, we were so exhausted we decided to call it a night. We made our way back to the busses. Instead of using the resort shuttle areas (which have covered waiting areas), runDisney has to use the charter bus area, which means we had to stand out in the cold rain and wait for our bus.

Remember how I said that Pop and Art of Animation were sharing buses? Well, once again the line was long. We waited 30 minutes for the first bus to arrive. This really was unacceptable. In our time waiting, we saw not one, but two buses for the Epcot area resorts come and go, with a grand total of 5 people on the first bus, and zero on the second.  All the while, 150 people waited in our line for 30+ minutes in the cold rain. While I do not pretend to know the bus contracts, it would seem logical to have the flexibility to re-allocate unused buses (which were just sitting there with no passengers on them) to resorts that had long lines of runners waiting in the cold rain.

Like I said, I love runDisney events and they do deserve praise for what they did right – and especially what they did that was excellent – on this night full of challenges. But, fairness does dictate that we be honest when things don’t go so well.

We never did make it to the World Showcase or the Food & Wine Festival portion of the after party, but I heard from other Casual Runners that it was great. The kiosk lines were short or nonexistent and runDisney arranged for some excellent character meet and greet opportunities.  I wish we had gone back there, but we were so exhausted, so cold from the rain, and my foot was hurting so badly, that I just could not.

Playlist Peak

On this trip I was not going to be able to see any of Walt Disney World’s fabulous nighttime spectaculars, so I went heavy on the music for those on my playlist. I included the soundtracks for Fantasmic, Electric Light Parade, Spectromagic, and Illuminations.  I also included the soundtracks for the Jammin Jungle Parade and the new Festival of Fantasy Parade. I think this music really helped get me through the frustrating injury.

Looking back now

This was about as fair of an assessment of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this event.  I hope runDisney listens to some of the post-race race issues and improves upon them for future events. That being said, I still LOVED this event. I know, only I could emerge from a race where the weather was horrible (not runDisney’s fault), I had a painful injury (not runDisney’s fault), and some logistical problems, and say that I still loved the event.  I have every intention of running this event again next year, and who knows, maybe I will just get the PR that eluded me on this night!

If you enjoyed Mike’s review, be sure to check out the other great coverage of runDisney events on Casual Runner, including the Castaway Cay 5k and Mike’s 2-part review of the 2013 Wine & Dine Half Marathon (Part 1 and Part 2). Stay tuned to this page and our YouTube Channel. So you do not miss this and other great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you liked Mike’s review, have any questions, or want to share your story, please leave a comment below or email us using the link below. See you out on the running trails!

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